The avocado (or alligator pear) is a fruit native to Central America and Mexico, but is commercially available and cultivated in Mediterranean and tropical climates all over the world. Avocados have green skin and a fleshy body and come in spherical, egg and pear shapes. This fruit ripens after harvesting, with some varieties turning into a shade of dark purple upon maturity.
There are dozens of varieties, but the Hass variety is the most popular one in the United States and is known for its rich and creamy consistency. Avocados are generally available throughout the year, but are mostly abundant during the summer and spring seasons. Other varieties like the Bacon, Fuerto and Zutano properties are more abundant during the colder seasons.
While avocados are genetically fruits, they are often considered and categorized as vegetables from culinary perspectives.
- Panthothenic acid – 41.6%
- Fiber – 40.2%
- Vitamin K – 35%
- Copper – 31.1%
- Folate – 30.3%
It provides you with substantial amounts of Vitamins B6, E and C. They also contain a wide range of phytonutrients including carotenoids (like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, neochrome, zeaxanthin, etc), phytosterols (like beta-sitoserol, campesterol and stigmasterol) and flavonoids.
Avocados are also rich in oleic and omega-3 fatty acids, which are key positive fats. Because ¾ of avocados come from fat, there is often a misconception that they are bad for the health. However, this fat in avocado is mostly healthy since they are monounsaturated fats. These are known to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterols (LDL) and raise high-density lipoproteins (HDL) which are the healthy kinds of cholesterol.
Health Benefits Of Avocados
Here are some of the best benefits of avocados:
- High nutrient content – Avocados are very rich in nutrients and have been found to have significant amounts of vitamins K and E, the minerals magnesium and potassium and total dietary fiber.
- Weight friendly – Avocado consumers were found to have lower weight and lower body mass index in comparison to non-avocado consumers.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease – Avocados have known to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, which refers to the symptoms that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is also rich in glutathione, monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, which is great for the heart. Its potassium content also helps control blood pressure. High folate levels have also been shown to reduce the risk of strokes among eaters.
- May help prevent cancer – This fruit is also very rich in phytochemicals, which are reported to increase resilience against certain kinds of cancer
- Regulates cholesterol levels – Avocados are also rich in beta sitosterol, which is known to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
- Anti-inflammatory – the fruit also contains flavonoids and polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory properties. These help reduce the risk of degenerative and inflammatory related disorders.
- Promotes blood sugar levels – Because of its monounsaturated (or good) fat content, avocados also help reverse insulin resistance and regulate blood sugar levels.
- Fights oxidation – It is also rich in glutathione and other antioxidants, which are known to fight free radicals, reverse oxidation and slow down aging.
- Great for the skin – Aside from these health benefits, avocados are also great for the skin. It can help treat psoriasis and other inflammatory kinds of skin conditions, is great for moisturizing and is also used as a mask for the face.
Eating and Preparing Avocados
Most avocado recipes involve make use of it raw, and many experts recommend this approach because it preserves all the health benefits and nutrients in the fruit. If you plan to cook with avocados, do so using the lowest temperature and the lowest cooking time so as to limit the damage to the fruit’s unique and healthy fats.
Like chestnuts and bananas, avocados contain enzymes known as chitinases, which are associated with latex fruit allergy. While it is very rare, avocado may cause allergic reaction especially in people who have existing latex allergies or those who are allergic to the aforementioned foods. Cooking avocados may deactivate these enzymes and limit the chances of reactions.
Commercially available avocados ripen upon picking, so you can choose to buy ripe avocados or unripe ones, and wait for them to ripen at home. To find a ripe avocado, gently squeeze the fruit with the palm on your hand without applying force from your fingertips (as this may cause bruising). A ripe avocado yields to firm but gentle pressure. Firmer fruits are usually unripe but will be ready to eat in a couple of days. If the avocado feels mushy or too soft, it may be unripe. It is important to note that ripeness of the fruit is not indicated by the color but by firmness.